Things I don’t like

Back on the ‘Reblogging Trail’, I found this old post from 2013. Only three of you have seen it, I think.
I was quite outspoken back then! Look how much I have calmed down now. 🙂

beetleypete

I saw a bit of a TV programme called Room 101. Minor celebrities compete to get things they hate put into ‘Room 101’ by the host, symbolising the removal of those things, on a permanent basis. It is supposed to be funny, and it isn’t at all. However, it got me thinking about things that I would like to ban, or make disappear, and here is a short list of them.

Centre Lane drivers. On a three lane motorway, there are always drivers who insist on never moving out of the middle lane. They usually drive quite slowly, or just on the legal limit, making it hard for slow lorries to get out of the left lane, or for other drivers who have overtaken them, to move back in safely. Even when there is no traffic, say during the early hours of the morning, they still hug this middle lane…

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Whac-a-mole

Another post reblogged for new followers. Some of you will remember this one. My candidates haven’t changed since I wrote this, but feel free to add your own choices in the comments. 🙂

beetleypete

Whac-a-mole is a fairground/arcade game that involves hitting toy moles with a mallet, as their heads pop up out of the five holes on the game’s surface. For a better description of this, please see the following Wikipedia link; that is if you are not already conversant with the general idea.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whac-A-Mole

I have a different concept of my version of this game, call it a fantasy, if you will. In my version, the machine would be large; large enough to accommodate humans. It would sit in a cellar, or shed, somewhere out of earshot, and away from prying eyes. Inside, would be the people that annoy me the most. The smug, the self-important, the self-satisfied, swollen of ego, and enjoying undeserved reputations. Those that think that they really are ‘it’, and that their music, or skills, or humour and personality are beyond criticism. They believe that what they have…

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Techno fear

Another old post from 2012, lamenting the addiction to technology, and the controlling practices of the major electronics corporations. It only had one like and comment, so nobody should remember it. 🙂

beetleypete

There is something sinister about the way that Technology creeps up on you. One day, life is going on as normal, and the next, you can’t remember how to use a telephone box, or even know where to find one. I can almost remember the last time I made a call from a public kiosk, queuing patiently, until it was free to use. Then, in what seemed an instant, I had a mobile phone in my hand, and I have never used a public box since; though I still had a phone card in my wallet, until very recently.

Can any of you remember what life was like before mobile phones? Imagine breaking down in your car, on a country road, late at night, in an unfamiliar area. You had to walk for an unknown time, until you could find a telephone box to use, to summon assistance. You also…

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Just been watching…(93)

Bird Box (2018)

***No spoilers***

As I have recently gained access to Netflix, I thought I would try out some of its ‘exclusive’ films. This film has had mixed reviews, mostly bad ones, but I wanted to see for myself. It was free after all, and I could just turn it off if I didn’t like it. I started the film with limited expectations. Never a huge fan of Sandra Bullock, and I have seen almost every ‘Post-Apocalyptic’ thriller going. But John Malkovich was in it, so it had to be worth trying.

The film begins close to the end, and flashes back to how we got there. I don’t mind that construction, though you have to be alert to the words ‘Five years earlier’ appearing on screen. If you turned away as that popped up, it may initially have been a little confusing.

There has been a worldwide disastrous event. People have been ‘seeing something’ and it causes them to immediately commit suicide, in any way available. In the flashback segments (they appear early on, so are not spoilers) we see deliberate car crashes, various people jumping out of windows, and others using everything from guns to solid objects to kill themselves. Most of these are very well done, leaving the viewer shocked and surprised. There is little or no explanation as to what might be causing this phenomenon, but one constant is that people ‘see’ something, and when they do, they kill themselves by using whatever means are available.

Bullock plays the lead role of Malorie, a gifted artist, and a pregnant single mother. After the disaster makes its way to North America, she eventually finds refuge in the home of a man unaffected, discovering a mixed group of other people who are also sheltering there. From this point, the film takes the turn into a familiar ‘siege’ scenario, with the terrified group avoiding contact with outsiders, and bickering among themselves. But we are made aware that people must protect themselves by never looking outside. When they do venture out, they must all wear blindfolds, or cover their eyes. Failure to do this for even the shortest time means that they will see whatever it is people see, and kill themselves seconds later. For our benefit, the action flashes forward five years, so we get to see how Malorie is progressing later on. Then it returns to the dire situation the group finds itself in.
Without any spoilers, that’s more or less all I can say.

“Drum roll”.

I actually liked it! Despite everything I had read that put it down, this film had real tension throughout, and every cast member took it very seriously. The ‘blindfold world’ is a neat idea, and the difficulties of existing when unable to look at anything felt authentic. Set pieces were suitably dramatic, but use of CGI was limited, and that made things feel ‘real’. Deciding not to show ‘the monsters’, was a solid choice, leaving us with a sense of unease about what could actually be out there. In fact, we could make up our own ideas about the unseen force that is attacking mankind. Bullock was intense, but she always is. Malkovich was great, just being his usual villainous self, and everyone else seemed to fit in nicely. British actor Tom Hollander relished his short but very effective role, lifting the latter segment of the film completely. As Sandra is fifty years old, choosing her to play a first-time mum was a bit of a stretch, but so what.

And the Bird Box of the title? They discover that birds sense the presence of the ‘monsters’. By keeping them close, in a small box, their agitated cheeping gives early warning of impending disaster. Not unlike taking canaries down a mine. Nice touch.

What makes me laugh

I’m quite a serious person. I think too much, (especially on Sundays) then write about what I think. I have strange dreams, then write about those too. I look back on my life. often living too long in the past, and I complain about the weather. A lot.

But I do have a humourous side, and things do make me laugh, often out loud. But I don’t laugh at people falling over. I certainly don’t laugh at Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, or Eddie Murphy. I rarely laugh at sitcoms on TV, particularly American ones, and when people tell me that so and so is ‘hilarious’, I generally look blank, and wonder what they are talking about. But there are people who make me laugh, and shows that I laugh at too.

Eddie Izzard

Father Ted

Peter Kay

Sarah Millican

Dad’s Army

Woody Allen (As a stand-up)

Just a snapshot of some things that cheer me up to watch. Non-British readers may need some help with the regional accents. If so, please request a translation in the comments. 🙂

Just been watching…(64)

Dark Places (2015)

***No spoilers***

When a film I have never heard of pops up as a TV showing, I usually check out some reviews or listings to see if it is something I might want to watch. But as this was described as a ‘Mystery thriller’, and starred Charlize Theron, I taped it on the PVR anyway.

Considering it had escaped my film radar completely, this film has a lot going for it. For one thing, it is set in Kansas, not California or New York. The dingy backstreets of Kansas City, and the arid-looking farmlands of the wider state make a refreshing change from the norm, and something very different for someone used to seeing familiar American (or Canadian) locations. (OK, it was filmed in Louisiana, but what do I know? I was happy to believe it was Kansas.) I should say from the start that I later found out this film went straight to video/cable, and received mostly very bad reviews. So, here we have a film with a deceptive location, no cinema pedigree, and bad reviews. Why did I watch it?

The simple answer is Charlize Theron. She tackles her role as Libby with dedication, little or no make up, and wearing a baseball cap and jeans. Nervy, aggressive, often foul-mouthed, she is not a character you might warm to, but I did. Nicolas Hoult (the boy in ‘About A Boy’) co-stars as the amiable geek who wants her to face her past demons, and unravel the secrets that have long tormented her.

The story concerns a family ‘massacre’ many years earlier. Libby survived, and her older brother was convicted of killing her mother, and both her sisters. The crime got a great deal of attention, and Libby became an eight year old celebrity, with a ghost written book about the event, and donations from well-wishers that have enabled her to live without working ever since. She is reclusive, a hoarder, has no friends, and little contact with the outside world. But the money is running out, and she is approached by a young man who wants her to examine her memory, and reveal what really happened on that fateful night.

The film is told in two distinct parts, with flashbacks to the events inserted into the modern day investigation. Each of the main characters is shown as a teenager or child, so there are two casts, including a convincing and watchable Chloe Grace Moretz as a wild teen involved with the older brother. As Libby begins to question her recall, she investigates the statements given at the time, and travels around to find those involved, all now adults. Her memories change with each encounter, and we see the differences in flashback sequences.

The film throws in some amateur satanic worship, and the usual drunken, shiftless and mostly absent father, with a nod to press sensationalism of crime. The mother is broke, with her farm not making any money, and the bank threatening to foreclose. The older brother may or may not have sexually abused young girls (but not his sisters) as well as murdering most of his family, and Libby has never visited him in prison, not once. All things we have seen before of course.

Mostly, I thought it was well done indeed. Maybe I am easily pleased, but I don’t think that’s it. I was never confused about which time period the film was in, or which cast members were playing the grown up versions of the younger characters. Theron was as good as ever, and the final reveal of what actually happened that night was totally unexpected, at least by me. On the downside, there is a distinct lack of any real tension that you might expect from the genre, and Hoult’s role seems rather pointless, other than to introduce doubt. Also his acting is stiff, and by the numbers. But I have seen a lot worse films that had much better reviews, I can assure you of that.

Just been watching…(63)

Testament of Youth (2014)

***This is a true story, set around historical events. So spoilers apply***

Fortunately, the BBC is not letting us forget that we are still remembering The Great War of 1914-1918. One hundred years ago, men were dying all over Europe, in what later became known as WW1. This film was shown at the weekend, and is based on the book of the same name, by British writer Vera Brittain. I have read the book, and also watched the outstanding TV serialisation in 1979. This modern film stays true to both.

Very much a film of two halves, we start off with the rather idyllic lifestyle enjoyed by the English upper classes in the first decade of the 20th century. Polite company, girls looking for husbands, young men looking for suitable wives. Tea on the lawn, swimming in the lake, and walks on the beach. The men are at expensive private schools, and all have solid futures at university, and beyond. Young Vera is a rebel. She wants to go to Oxford University. Few women gained such places back then, and her father fears that it will make her unattractive to any prospective husband. But she is strong and determined, and gains her place at an all-girl college. Meanwhile, she spends the last holiday with her brother, and his two best friends. One of them is besotted with her, and they fall in love and become engaged to marry.

But just as she leaves for Oxford, war breaks out in Europe.

Vera’s fiance promises not to go, but soon joins up. Her brother follows shortly after. The third friend is initially turned down for medical reasons, but as casualties mount, he too joins as an officer. Studying at Oxford, Vera feels useless, and wants to do something for the war effort. She abandons her degree, and becomes a volunteer nurse. After working in England for some time, and seeing the effect of war on the patients she is treating, she asks for transfer to France, to help with the wounded close to the front line, and to be nearer her brother, who is leading his men in the trenches now.

This is a film about tragedy, and how we cope with it. Newspapers in the film are little more than page after page listing the names of men killed in action. Vera’s mother is unable to cope with wartime rationing, and the fact that her household staff have left. Her comfortable life has been shattered, and it affects her mentally. Vera’s sombre father has seen his son off to the war, and is constantly worried about him. As the war goes on, the reality hits home. Vera’s fiance is reported killed, on the very day he should be home on leave to marry her. She gets the news while wearing her wedding dress.
Working in a field hospital in France, Vera is shocked to see her own brother brought in, badly wounded, and left for dead. She nurses him back to health, only to have to watch him leave to go back to the war once again. When they get the news that he has been killed in action later, it almost breaks his distraught father.

This is a noble film. It is not a war film, though there are some short action scenes, mostly in flashback. Much of the action takes place in either comfortable upper-class homes, or amid the horrors of battlefield hospitals, short on resources, and understaffed. I think it is a fine adaptation of the book, with the period feel handled flawlessly, and the viewer completely invested in the emotions and strengths of the characters. Above all, it is the casting that exudes quality. Not a single bad choice, with every actor and actress just right for the role. And what talent is on display too.

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander may seem a strange choice to play the rebellious Vera. But she is just perfect, and her accent is exactly right too. This young woman really knows how to act, and I have never seen her give a poor performance. Vera’s parents are played by Dominic West, and the wonderful Emily Watson, and her female tutor at Oxford gives Miranda Richardson the chance to shine once again, this time in a smaller role. The three men in Vera’s life are all just right too. Her brother is played solidly by Taron Egerton, and her fiance by Kit Harington. Their friend Victor, who has always secretly loved Vera, is a fine turn from Colin Morgan, showing real acting quality.

The British film industry has a long history of delivering compelling historical and period dramas. They tend to do these very well indeed, and this is no exception.